Don’t Become Stagnant


Do you run the same routes and distances every week? I hope not, especially, if your goal is to improve your running. It’s important to change things up and challenge your body in new ways. The body learns to run the same old stuff very efficiently. Once it does this, you stop getting gains in your running.

Most training programs include a couple of easy runs, one speed work, and then a long run on the weekend. This is pretty much true regardless of distance.

Having a couple of easy days is important for your body to recover and I don’t think you need to mess with these. Easy days should be at conversation pace. The distance depends on the distance of the race you’re training for and if you’re not training for an event, it would be based upon the distance you like to run on the weekends.

Speed work is a wonderful way to work on your leg turnover even if your focus is not speed but endurance. Being able to move your feet quickly is helpful for steep descents and technical terrain. There are many different types of speed work including intervals, ladders, and tempo runs.

Interval runs consist of a specific distance of a mile or less run at a 90% effort and then either a 200 meter or 400 meter cool down. Then you repeat them. The number of repeats again is tied to the distance of your long run on the weekend.

Ladders are when you increase the distance with each interval. You still have the 200 or 400 meter rest, but the first interval would be 400, the second would be 800, the third one mile, and the fourth a mile and a half. You can create a pyramid by coming back down, one mile, 800 and 400 with the mile and half being the apex.

Tempo runs are when you run a 800 to one mile warm up (actually you should be running a warm up with all speed work) and then run 4 or 5 miles at about 80% effort or race pace.

Of course these are just a few examples, and if you google you will find a ton more. When doing speed work make sure you are not putting it back to back with another hard workout such as a long run. Speed work is hard on your body and it needs an easy run or rest day to follow.

Another way to mix up speed work is not to run speed at all, but hills. You can find a long gradual climb of a few miles or you can do hill repeats (gag). With hill repeats, your rest is on the downhill. So run hard up and then slow down, repeat.

Long runs are another essential part of training, but there are options here as well. You can add in Fartleks. Fartlek means, “speed play.” What you do is pick a point in front of you during a long run. It doesn’t have to be very far out. And then run it hard. You can do this as many times as you’d like and change up the distance each time. This is also good for those who get bored during long runs.

Change up your route for your long runs too. Add some hills, some trails, or run through a park or two. If you run through a park with a playground you can stop and do some pull ups or go down the slide (why not?).

My final suggestion to mix it up and prevent that stagnation is to throw in some other exercises every mile or so during a long run. Stop and do some pushups, burpees, or jumping jacks. Run with high knees or butt kicks.

Changing things up forces your body to adapt in new ways. This means it gets stronger, which is what you want.

You’re doing everything right, but you’re not getting any faster…


Every runner experiences a plateau in their running at some point during their running career. Sometimes it is due to external stresses at work or at home, and leveling off can be a good thing while you get things under control in other areas of your life. This happens when you are just physically tired due to other things in your life.


I’ve been getting my house cleaned up and fixed up so I can sell it and move closer to family and friends. Over the past week, I’ve noticed that I just don’t have the “get up and go” during my runs. This was really frustrating until I realized I have been putting in 12-15 hour days seven days a week between my job, volunteer work, and working on my house. When you add my running, swimming and cycling to this schedule, it’s well, a lot. So as much as I dislike a plateau, I understand why I’ve hit it.


Other reasons a runner can hit a plateau in their running is due to overtraining, overwhelmed or over-focused.


Overtraining is not only a physical condition, but it can be a mental one as well.  If all of your mental energy is going towards your running goal, in other words you eat, sleep and breathe running, you may need to remember other aspects of your life for a few days before getting back into running.


This is easy to spot. Just look at what you do every day. When you’re not running, are you icing, stretching, strength training, foam rolling, reading about running, and focused on your diet to maintain gains in running. Do all you’re social relationships revolve around running. These are good signs that your plateau is probably due to mental overtraining. Do something different for 3-4 days and then come back to it at a less intense level. There are other aspects to life and running will be there when you return.


Being overwhelmed can also stagnate your running. It’s hard to get the motivation to push yourself hard when you’ve got so many things begging and requiring your attention. If this is the case, it is easy to ease up on your running or get lost in your thoughts during a run and just “dog” the miles.


You only have so much time and energy each day and if you are burning the candle at both ends, you will run out of wick sooner rather than later. Your runs will feel harder and you are not going to improve during this time. You need to get some things off your plate and be aware of things that are coming your way as much as possible. Don’t over extend yourself. Don’t be a “yes” man.


Being over-focused is also a way you can level off your progress. Having a goal race and pace is perfectly fine, but be able to let it go if needed due to illness, injury, or crisis. If you are so focused on hitting a goal that missing it or the chance of missing it is causing you to alter your everyday life and not participate in other things that give you pleasure then you run the risk of losing more than just your goal time at the race. You can lose your motivation and friends or family.


Running is a beautiful and wonderful thing. Balance in essential in all aspects of life, running included, especially if you want to make progress and get better. Keep it all in perspective, my friends.